Declared the new Alsaldic king, Kottir has caused a stir and consternation amongst the truvidiren by issuing edicts despite, as Chief Truvidir Markenys tells him, this is the sole right of Uissid Tizarn. But there are more edicts yet to come. One in particular . . . but read on
“The next King’s Decree is this: the Water-Borne Division of the Regiment is to put out to sea. They will carry all the gold and the copper, the bronze and the amber—indeed, all that is in the King’s Stores, here and all over this land. Everything that is not food and cannot be eaten. With this they are to sail south. South, and south, and further south. Until they come to a land where Draksen is not—even if that requires them to sail as far as the Middle Sea. And when they reach this land where Draksen is not, they there will trade these precious metals from our King’s Stores for something yet more precious. For grain. I know this is no quick and no easy way to feed my people. How long it will take? I do not know. Yet they will do it, and my people shall have the food.”
I glanced over to where two commanders of the Regiment stood. I had expected them to object about using the men of the Regiment as hunters, and yet they’d remained quiet. Now I wondered what they’d say to this.
“The men won’t put to sea in this Darkness,” was the younger commander’s objection. “How can they navigate with no sun, no moon, nor the stars?”
“Oh but they can,” King Kottir insisted. “You have amongst those sea-men the very best. I know this for I served the Four with them. The very best of sea-men do not need such aids. When a thick mist descends over the sea—as often it does—do these same sea-men become confused, do they become lost? No, they do not. A good sea-man guides his boat not with his head—not with his eyes and ears. No, he guides it with every part of his body. The tides, the currents, the winds, these are a part of the sea-man. They flow through his body along with his blood.
“But,” he conceded; “if these sea-men should prove unworthy, should they object, then I shall sail along with them. Aye, you heard. I shall take them across the sea on the first stage of their journey. Now, does that satisfy you?”
“We would be failing in our duty to protect the Alsaldic King if we allowed you to do that,” said that same young commander.
King Kottir laughed. “You would have me starve along with my people yet you won’t have me set out to sea in the dark? No matter. If such should be needed then I am sure my father will willingly sail in my place.”
I wasn’t at all happy with any of this. And not only because the king’s measures were unworkable, ill-founded, impossible, but because he did not follow the correct procedure. Uissid Tizarn was supposed to be the one to issue such commands, and via me to ensure they were followed. What would Uissid Tizarn say when he heard what this New King had already done?
“Are there any more commands you want to give?” I asked him, refusing to use his own words, whether ‘decree’ or ‘edict’.
He smiled and looked across to where Mistress Bregan stood with her aunt.
“Bregan,” he beckoned her to him—no ‘Mistress’ nor ‘Alsalda’, as courtesy demanded she should be titled on this night because at this feast—the New King’s Feast—it was she—as the young King’s Wife—who confirmed the New King as the True Heir when she served him the King’s Brew, which she already had done.
Obedient as a heel-hound, she answered his call to stand beside him.
He said, “I made a vow to Mistress Bregan before the Games. I vowed that if I was the True Heir, the New King, the Alsaldic King, that I would take her, the new King’s Wife, to be my own wife. Now I announce my intention of doing exactly that.”
He already had her hand in his, and was bending to kiss her to seal it, when I called out, “No! You cannot.”
He looked up and across at me. He sighed, “Who is the king?”
“You are, King Kottir,” I answered though reluctantly—and that not because I disapproved of this New King—I rather liked him—but because there should have been no reason for him to ask it.
“Who is the New King’s Wife?” he then asked.
He had phrased that well. There could be but one answer yet that answer wasn’t the truth. “Mistress Bregan.”
He held his hands up in front of him and, palms together, and clasped them. “Chief Truvidir, now I am confused. You tell me that Mistress Bregan is the New King’s Wife. And yet you tell me I cannot be wed with her. Why not?”
“Because Bregan is my apprentice, my true heir, and I will not allow it,” Mistress Maia answered him.
“Will you not?” he asked her. “Not even if I seek your permission, and promise never to take her away from your craft?”
“The King’s Wife does not wed,” Mistress Maia said.
“And why does she not?” he asked her.
I answered in her stead: “Because she is already wedded to the Alsaldic King. As stated by Alsaldic Law.”
King Kottir smiled at that. He laughed. And for some time after he was unable to speak for his chuckles again bursting out. And all the while he held tight to Bregan’s hand. He then pulled her in closer and again addressed me. “Does that mean that we are already wed? Can I take her to my bed this very night? Or must I still wait?”
I was too busy trying to evade the knots his man was trying to tie around me to notice how Kailen had somehow drifted from the front of those gathered around the New King and Bregan. It was only with the opening and closing of the doors, and the accompanying cold draught that I turned and saw he was no longer there.
“This is a difficult question of law,” I told King Kottir. “I shall have to consult with Uissid Tizarn.”
King Kottir nodded. “So you consult with your Uissid, and I shall claim my wife.”
“I have yet to grant my permission,” Mistress Maia called out.
“Please, Mistress Maia, I ask not that you release Bregan from your service and your craft, but that she becomes the king’s wife in my bed as well as in your brew-house. I ask for your permission. Will you grant it?”
“Will the demands of being your wife interfere with her craft? I cannot approve if they do.”
“I do vow that never shall be.”
“Then you have my permission,” she said.
I was speechless. Yet, how could she not grant it when he was our king. Besides, hadn’t we all seen them together during the decan before the Games. Truly, this should not have come as any surprise. But, oh, how I wished that Uissid Tizarn were able to direct and to guide me. I suppose if he’d been able to do so then he’d also have been directing and guiding King Kottir and none of this would be happening. I prayed for an end to this Darkness.
But King Kottir was not yet through with issuing demands.
“Now that you’ve agreed that the New King’s Wife should, indeed, be the new king’s wife, and at the risk of having yet more objections thrown in my way—is this the way you usually treat the New King?—I shall now announce this: My wife is to be my queen.”
“No!” I said. “No, that’s not possible. It’s not the way it is done.”
“Then how is it done?” King Kottir asked with not a sign of him losing his patience nor yet of his anger growing though it surely must be.
I recited the verses concerning the choosing of the Alsaldic Queen. He listened, nodding at each part as he understood it.
“Oh,” he said when I’d finished. “So by your refusal to accept my choice you are saying that Bregan, my wife, is not the most beautiful young woman in all the land?”
“I . . .” I began to defend.
“Whose queen is she? The king’s or the people’s?”
It was Queen Yoisea answered this. She should know the answer better than any. “The Alsaldic Queen belongs not to the king but to the people of the Alsaldic Lands. She is that land.”
“So she cannot be my queen?” King Kottir asked.
“Only if she is chosen.”
“I’m sorry, Bregan,” he told her. “I choose you, but it seems that others have to choose you too.”
She shook her head. She smiled, I’d say nervously. She looked away. Was she searching those who stood around her? Was she looking for someone in particular? If so, that ‘someone’ wasn’t there. She turned back to King Kottir.
“I’ll be your wife,” she said. “It doesn’t matter that I’m not the queen: I came here to be the King’s Wife, it’s what the Mothers want of me.”
King Kottir clearly was disappointed at this. Yet on this matter he had to accept that the Alsaldic Law is the Alsaldic Law and is not his to change at will.
“Play on,” he commanded the musicians before coming straight back to me, dragging young Mistress Bregan behind him.
“I want to speak to your Uissid Tizarn,” he said, clearly not happy. “I would prefer to speak with him this same night. But if this cannot be, then it must be the morrow.”
“No one seeks an audience with Uissid Tizarn,” I told him. “It’s not the way it is done.”
He drew in a mighty breath and sighed it out, long and with noise. “Do we have to go through this again? I am the king. I ask to see this man who seems to have more to say than I so of what happens in my land. You can tell him I am not happy to be continually told that I cannot do this and I can’t do that. And that this and that is only for Uissid Tizarn to do. Do you understand me?”
“I will go at once to him,” I said and left the King’s Chamber in some haste, wagging my head.
Well might Chief Truvidir Markenys leave the King’s Chamber in some haste and wagging his head. He’s wondering what Uissid Tizarn will make of all this. In answer to that, catch the next episode, Puppet-master, Kingmaker, Uissid Tizarn